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Regular family reunions hoped through Red Cross working-level talks
MARCH 06, 2014 00:29  
The South Korean government proposed North Korea a working-level meeting to negotiate fundamental solutions on family reunion issues on next Wednesday. The Unification Ministry said, "This is a follow-up on President Park Geun-hye`s March 1 Independence Day commemorative speech," urging North Korea`s response. President Park ordered at Cabinet Council on Tuesday to negotiate with North Korea on confirmation of life and death between families, exchange of letters and video reunions. Considering aged people living apart, this is a humanitarian issue that has to be solved in priority.

The Unification Ministry had proposed in August last year Red Cross working-level meeting when it agreed with the North on family reunion at Mt. Keumgang that was cancelled by the North at the last minute. The North said the reason was the trial on Progressive Unified Party Rep. Lee Seok-ki. Last month, Kim Kyou-hyun, first deputy director of the presidential Office of National Security, and Won Tong Hyun, deputy director of the United Front Department in North Korea, decided to hold a family reunion event. On its proposal of Red Cross talks, the South Korean government said, "What is important is not who comes to the table (ranks) but solving humanitarian issue." However, how North Korea will respond is yet to be seen.

In June last year, both Koreas decided to hold talks in Seoul to discuss matters including family reunion, Mt. Keumgang tourism and Kaesong Industrial Complex normalization, but was dropped due to differing opinions on the ranks of who will attend. South Korea asked for Kim Yang Kon, director of the United Front Department of North Korea`s Workers` Party, but the North said Kang Ji Young, director of North뭩 Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, will attend. Then the South put forth Vice Unification Minister Kim Nam-sik instead of Unification Minister Ryu Kil-jae, to which the North opposed.

South-North family reunion talks began in August 1971 when South Korean Red Cross made the proposal. At the first main talks in August 1972, South-North Korean Red Cross agreed on five issues including the confirmation of life and death and address of separated families, free visit and reunion, exchange of letters, reunion on free will and other humanitarian issues. A series of setbacks on inter-Korean relations, however, have put family reunion matter on the side, and for the past some 40 years, no fundamental solutions have been made but for a temporary gathering.

South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise Key Resolve will end Thursday and the South Korean government expects the mood for talks to enhance. Optimism can`t be guaranteed, however. North Korea recently invaded Northern Limit Line in the west coast and fired missiles, heightening military tensions. It broke the promise of not to slander each other. It takes two to tango and this is no exception to South-North relations.

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